Working Conditions Act & Working Hours Act

The Working Conditions Act (Arbowet) and Working Hours Act (Arbeidstijdenwet) impose (serious) obligations on the employer in order to protect employees with a view to safe and healthy work. Every professional group has its own risks, both physical and mental. Dancers, for example, run similar risks to top athletes, musicians can sustain hearing damage, professionals in any discipline can suffer from RSI and stress .

When do the acts apply?

The rules of the Working Conditions Act and Working Hours Act apply to everyone who works under someone else’s authority. In addition to employees, interns, volunteers and temporary workers also fall under these Acts. The Working Conditions Act also applies to students in higher education. 

If a self-employed person/ contractor is working alone, these Acts do not apply. In that sense, you are better protected, therefore, as an employee. As a self-employed person, you will have to deal with these Acts in the following situations:

  • The Working Conditions Act: if volunteers (friends), interns or, more generally, persons are working under your authority: in that case you have the same obligations as an employer with regard to the Working Conditions Act;
  • The Working Hours Act: this applies to self-employed persons if the safety of third parties is at stake, like with transport.

The Working Conditions Act

The Working Conditions Act is aimed at preventing accidents and occupational illnesses. The employer must map out the risks in a Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RIE), draw up a plan of action and, where necessary, adapt to the new insights. He or she must also act as preventively as possible. Safeguarding against aggression and (sexual) intimidation is, for example, an obligation of the employer.

The regulations in the Dutch Civil Code determine whether and, if so, how damages can be claimed following and as a result of an accident or occupational illness, or more generally, following breach of the Working Conditions Act by the employer. Legally speaking, this is a lot easier for an employee than a self-employed person.

The Working Hours Act: exceptions and amendments

If nothing has been laid down about working hours within an organisation, then the so-called ‘standard terms’ apply. The so-called ‘consultation scheme’ has slightly broader standards, but the employer may only make use of this if collective agreements have been made about it. The film, dance and theatre world, for example, have agreements in their collective labour agreements about more flexible working times for travelling theatre technicians and film crew members. If the consultation scheme does also not create enough scope, the employer must seek alternative solutions and for example, hire in extra manpower, or reduce the travel time by offering overnight stays in the neighbourhood of the location.

The Working Hours Act is based on maximum working hours and minimum rest periods. In this regard, it does not matter for how many employers and/or clients you work those hours. For example, if you also work as a self-employed person in addition to being employed. Those hours also count! If an employer does not abide by the rules, the employer risks incurring a fine or punishment. That is why it states in a number of collective labour agreements that the employer requires permission for other activities.

The Working Hours Act does not apply to employees in management positions and who earn more than twice the minimum wage on an annual basis, and employees who earn more than three times the minimum wage.